Bioinformatics Hub Expands with Oishei Foundation Grant

Bioinformatic Research.

Published July 15, 2011 This content is archived.

A major grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation will expand bioinformatics and computational biology at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC).

The grant, totaling $850,000 over two years, will help fund new tenure-track faculty and computational support staff in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The new recruits will have offices and laboratory space at the Center of Excellence, which houses the university’s core supercomputing and genomics facilities.

Expansion Complements Medical School’s Move

“We fully expect that this support will enable the Center of Excellence to retain computational work that was being sent elsewhere, and to build a core of local projects, further expanding the promise of the BNMC. ”
Robert D. Gioia, President
John R. Oishei Foundation

The growth of the bioinformatics hub complements UB’s plan to relocate the medical school to the BNMC, a move that will bring students and faculty closer to research and clinical partners such as Kaleida Health.

“This generous support from the Oishei Foundation helps to advance the objectives of the UB 2020 plan for academic excellence,” said Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“The expansion of the bioinformatics hub will contribute to a vibrant medical campus and improve Western New York’s ability to conduct translational research, moving scientific discoveries from laboratories to practical applications to improve human health.”

Increased Capacity Helps Buffalo’s Economy Expand

The new recruits will be experts in computational biology and bioinformatics, a field that combines computer science and biology to better understand disease mechanisms, resulting in new diagnostic tests and patient treatments.

Their research, combined with the ongoing work of faculty in the UB Department of Biostatistics, will provide valuable expertise to a variety of researchers and companies in the Buffalo area.

“The Center of Excellence has done an outstanding job securing the resources necessary to build and equip a state-of-the-art facility, and we’re pleased to support the key academic professionals needed to staff it,” said Robert D. Gioia, president of the Oishei Foundation.

These increased capabilities also will position area scientists to mine and analyze data for collaborators around the world with the goal of explaining how given sets of genes or proteins are involved in disease.

“We fully expect that this support will enable the Center of Excellence to retain computational work that was being sent elsewhere and to build a core of local projects, further expanding the promise of the BNMC,” notes Gioia.

New Expertise Essential to Understand Disease

“This expertise is critical to our efforts to understand human disease at its most basic, molecular level,” said Norma Nowak, PhD, director of science and technology at the Center of Excellence and a UB professor of biochemistry. “It enables us to diagnose and define disease by the molecular alterations that lead to the symptoms that are traditionally used to make a diagnosis.

“It is a vital piece of the puzzle that the university is working to assemble with partners including Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and the region’s life sciences industry,” added Nowak, who led efforts to apply for the Oishei Foundation grant.

Strengthened Bioinformatics Hub Draws More Talent

A stronger bioinformatics hub will help attract additional talent to Buffalo Niagara, creating opportunities for students to engage in cutting-edge science.

It also will support life sciences recruitment, professional development and the implementation of large, multi-institution research projects.

Facility Upgrades Came from Competitive Grants

The Oishei funding dovetails with recent upgrades to UB’s core supercomputing and genomics facilities.

Last year, the Center for Computational Research underwent a $9 million expansion that more than quadrupled the power of data processing and increased electronic memory storage capacity by more than 20 times.

Additions included the installation of novel computing architectures that enable both data-driven science and computationally demanding modeling and simulation.

Money for the improvements came from competitive grants awarded to UB faculty by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

More recently, the Center of Excellence’s Next-Generation Sequencing and Expression Analysis Core Facility acquired an important piece of equipment: an illumina HiSeq 2000, which is so powerful that it can sequence a human genome in a week.

The $700,000 instrument can facilitate projects such as whole-genome and candidate-region sequencing, transcriptome analysis, small RNA discovery, methylation profiling and protein-nucleic acid interaction analysis on a genome-wide scale.

It was purchased with a grant from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources.